How Tugume Nelson Planned The $20m Coffee Scam

 Story By: Robert Kabushenga, the former boss of vision Group Uganda.

So how did we get to Tugume Nelson being given millions of dollars from Ministry of Finance meant for coffee to spend at will? How did I find myself in the thick of it?

In the early afternoon Saturday June 12, 2021 two unexpected visitors arrived unannounced at Rugyeyo Farm in Namayumba where I grow coffee. They were driving in a black Toyota Land Cruiser VX. It was Simon Peter Kasyate & Tugume Nelson

 Simon had been chasing me to do his Desert Island discs. Nelson had tried to make contact but I was avoiding him. Now I felt cornered but I didn’t show it. Although he claimed he wanted to tour my coffee farm, it later transpired that his real intention was to have me present at his Coffee City set up in Ntinda. He had invited Dr. 


Sam Mugasi, ED of National Agriculture Advisory  Service NAADs to come & launch it. He needed people of credibility in coffee to be present. 

I accepted and in fact showed up for that. 

The reason I had been avoiding Nelson is because I got to know of his dubious character during my time in the media. 

I therefore didn’t want anything to do with him since I knew him to be slippery. 

In our short interaction, he told me about his partnership with Mastercard Foundation & Private Sector Foundation under the Young Africa Works project where he was being funded to create one million jobs. I have since learnt that he burnt  through UGX 900m of their money & created no jobs. More on this later. 

After my brief visit to his outfit, I had nothing to do with Nelson again until September 2022.

In December 2019 I posted on Twitter my opposition to a draft Coffee Bill. 

This marked the beginning of my advocacy in the coffee sector. 

That is how I got involved in the arguments over departure from ICO & the Vinci Agreement. In the course of doing this work I got to learn that Nelson with the assistance of Odrek Rwabwogo had met the President and asked for US$ 5m to market coffee. Nelson later confirmed this to me himself. 

He however clarified that the President’s position was that this money should be given to a consortium of industry players rather than an individual. 

In September 2022, I was invited to a coffee stakeholders meeting at  State House. Nelson was not there because he was in London for the Investment Conference.  

At the end of that meeting which was coordinated by Irene Mugisha of Presidential CEO Forum, I was tasked with leading a formal coffee sector discussion which would culminate in an engagement with a Govt team led by the Attorney General on the specific issue of the Vinci Agreement. 

At no point did the issue of money for the consortium come up. Subsequently we held an initial meeting to brief other sector players about what had transpired at State House. 

That is when Nelson turned up & offered to host our next discussion. 

It was meant to harmonize our sector position on the Vinci Agreement & then submit written proposals to the AG. When we turned up at his Coffee City for this exercise, I found that Nelson had invited a much larger group of people and was claiming that it was the launch of the Coffee Consortium. 

I insisted on the limited discussion about the Vinci Agreement. After that I left. Subsequent meetings were held at another location & a report submitted to the AG. 

It was the last time I interacted with Nelson. He later rang me, pressurizing me to join his consortium, I refused. It turns out that he was charging UGX 10m for membership. 

In early 2023 I got involved with another initiative of the real coffee players. 

We wrote a report that was handed to Hon. Babalanda, Minister for Presidency. It was the last time I was involved in It was the last time I was involved in coffee sector matters with government.

After that I learnt that Nelson’s consortium with the assistance of a Commissioner in Ministry of Finance & PACEIDUG had been given US$10m. 

This was later disbursed though Ministry of science, Technology and innovation.

This was in spite of the objections of sector managers & the advice of various institutions that demonstrated Nelson’s crooked ways. All of this was ignored.

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